The number of Chinese nationals appealing rejected applications for refugee visas has more than doubled in the last year, making up the second highest number of applicants behind Malaysians.
The latest figures in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s annual report released on Tuesday, shows the number of Chinese applicants appealing protection visa refusals increased to 2,821 in 2017-18, up from 1,200 the previous financial year.
Applicants from Malaysia made up the largest group of those appealing their rejected protection visas with 5,825 applicants, up from 4,230 the year before.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal hears appeals on federal government decisions across a number of areas, but appeals relating to refugee visa cases made up 27 per cent of cases on hand at the end of the last financial year.
The report also noted that the number of applications about refugee decisions overall had “increased sharply” over the last two financial years and was up by 42 per cent compared to 2016-17.
While the exact outcome of those appeals are not included in the report, the Tribunal noted the “majority” of Malaysian protection visa applicants were found not to be refugees meeting Australia’s protection obligations.
Sydney-based migration agent Leela Raj, who is from Malaysia, says she is aware of an increasing number of Malaysians coming to Australia and then applying for refugee visas without valid asylum claims.
She says processes like appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal are a way for applicants to “buy time” and continue working in Australia for longer while their asylum claims are assessed.
“I don’t assist them [in lodging these appeals], but I am often asked to,” she told SBS News.
The increase in Chinese refugee applications to the Tribunal comes amidst a Chinese government crackdown on the ethnic minority Muslim Uighurs in the country’s western Xinjiang province.
It isn’t clear how many of the applicants claimed asylum on ethnic or religious grounds, or what percentage of Chinese applicants were successful in overturning their cases.
The surge in refugee visa appeals has contributed to the growing backlog of unresolved cases facing the tribunal, which is struggling to keep up with the caseload.
The number of unresolved applications at the end of the financial year stood at 53,282, up from just 25,345 two years ago.
Those appealing denied student visas made up the most common non-refugee migration cases heard, with 7,713 applicants before the tribunal.